365 days

One year ago at this moment, we were riding in a van through Shanghai traffic to meet our Samuel. I was a nervous wreck.

The morning had begun early. So much time to kill. Breakfast downstairs. A prayer of gratitude on my knees on the bathroom floor of our hotel (gross).

I will never forget the moment we first laid eyes on him. We had gone to the Marriage and Adoption Center and were waiting in a room with two other families. They took us down the hall one at a time to pay a fee. As we were walking back to the conference room, we heard,

“Han Yi Pei! Han Yi Pei!”

Out of a side room toddled the tiny delicate figure in the pictures I had been studying for the last four months. Seeing him there—feet from me—took my breath away. We knelt down. He froze. His tiny shoulders heaved up and down with nervous sighs. He was terrified and so were we. We reached out gently to take his hand. Our guide was whispering encouragement to us “More touch. Keep talking to him.” Oh my. That moment.

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So this is the anniversary of our Gotcha Day. Forever Family Day. Whatever you call it, it is beautifully etched in my mind. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our Samuel Yi Pei. Our spark plug and rascal prince.

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October

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January

February

It’s Our Weekiversary!

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Monday marked one week with our sweet boy. It is absolutely astounding where we are now compared to where we were a week ago.

Last Monday, Samuel was bundled tightly in three layers of clothes and would not even let us unzip his coat or slip off his shoes when it was time to sleep. This Monday he began the day streaking around the room in just a diaper and refuses to wear socks at all. Ever. (Although the brown loafers are still a necessity. Even to sleep usually.)

Last Monday he would not move from where he was placed, even to retrieve a toy a few inches from him. He would point and grunt when he wanted something that was out of his reach. This Monday, he ran approximately 37 miles around the zoo.

Last Monday he was so exhausted and timid, he peacefully drifted off to sleep with no coaxing at both nap time and bedtime. This Monday, it took me all but standing on my head to get the boy to sleep. Sammy’s motto: Must. Keep. Moving!

Last Monday we wondered what they could have possibly meant in his referral paperwork when they described this meek, gentle boy as “restless”. HA! It’s no longer a mystery!

Last Monday we were two strangers trying our very best to help a little boy understand that we would keep him safe and take care of his needs. This Monday we are already feeling very much like a family. (Or at least part of a family, counting the moments until we are reunited with those giggly brown haired girls on the other side of the pond).

We spent our afternoon with the other Dillon families exploring a zoo called Safari Park.

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It was so neat! The first part of the visit was called “Safari on Wheels” and we all piled in a trolley and were driven through all kinds of animal exhibits. Sammy was SO excited.

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One has to “Be carefully slip” when the sidewalk at the zoo is wet!

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The next part of the tour is called “Safari by foot” where, you guessed it! We walked. A lot. We saw all kinds of neat creatures…pandas, koalas, golden oxen, meerkats, white tigers. I’ll spare you the photos. You get the idea🙂

We were all tuckered out after that adventure so Sammy and I went back to the room while daddy wandered around the neighborhood and found a little restaurant and brought back amazingness in styrofoam containers. I hope he can find it again. I think it was one of my favorite meals since we’ve been here!

Familiar Faces in an Unfamiliar City

Sunday we had rain, rain and more rain! We met Michelle and Erica for coffee after a slow morning and big breakfast at the hotel.

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Michelle knew about a mall close by so we took a taxi there and walked around for awhile. Sammy helped me pick out some “China candy” for the girls. Michelle brought this the last time she came to visit us and they each asked for a piece every single night after dinner until it was gone. We had strict orders to restock!

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Saturday Erica and Michelle had discovered a great street that had all kinds of wonderful food options. We headed there and ate lunch at a really neat Thai restaurant.

I couldn’t resist. Jason has a knack for crazy photo faces.

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Did you notice? It’s the real live Sammy wearing his very own Sammy shirt!

After lunch Sammy and Baba went to play in the rain. Lots of giggles!

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After lunch we headed to the hotel for a little downtime.

Before we left for China we tried as a family to learn a few phrases in Mandarin. We practiced along to our CD several nights after dinner. We learned things like “I am your mommy.” “I am your daddy.” “You are my son.” And the girls delighted in learning the phrase for “poop.” I even loaded the tracks to my iPod and did a crash course on the plane. In the first days with a Sammy I often whispered these phrases of reassurance to our boy as I peeked at my cheat sheet. “It’s okay.” “Don’t worry.” “I love you very much.” “You are so precious.” None of them, however, invited any kind of response. Even if they had, I assume my pronunciation was so far off he didn’t recognize it anyway! Whenever we were out together and someone spoke to Samuel in Chinese, he got very nervous and shy and hung his head, never interacting at all.

Sunday afternoon it was just the three of us with Michelle in our room. Sammy had gotten pretty comfortable with Michelle by this point and when she opened a container of dried apricots for a snack, he walked over to join her. She started tearing off little pieces and handing them to him. After several bites, she asked him in Chinese,

“Is it delicious?”

Sammy grinned and nodded his head. Jason and I both gasped. We had certainly been on the receiving end of his little head shaking “no” when he didn’t like what was happening but hadn’t seen him nod or express any understanding like he did then. Michelle asked him next “Is that your mommy?” “Is that your daddy?” Big smiles and hearty nods! By then all the adults in the room were in tears. I suddenly felt like I had an outlet to really communicate with him so I started to feed Michelle questions. “Ask him if he’s happy!” “Ask him if he is okay!” Michelle asked if he knew he had two sisters at home and he giggled and nodded again. We knew he was beginning to understand several English phrases but it was such a gift to see him relax after a week working so hard to learn what we were saying to him and communicate in his first language.

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For dinner we headed back to our favorite food avenue and met Erica for Shawarma. Yum! Sammy was quite adventurous and reached out to try the hummus. He loved it! Snickers and now hummus…this boy and I are going to get along just fine!

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After dinner we headed to 7-11 for Magnum bars, bid Erica and Michelle farewell for the evening and caught a cab. We realized as soon as we sat down that Erica had been holding Sammy’s sippy cup for us and we forgot to get it back. We had plans to grab lunch with them the next day so we figured we’d catch up with it then. At that moment we looked out the window to see a cab swerving toward us with Erica hanging out of the window waving the cup at us. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to snap a photo. It was awesome! Not only is her Chinese spectacular, the girl can hail a cab, convince the driver to catch up to us, jump out of the car in traffic and reunite boy with sippy in a matter of 90 seconds!

Farewell, Shanghai. Hello Guangzhou!

Friday we packed our bags and headed for the airport to transfer to Guangzhou for the next leg of our journey. I snapped these photos of Jason and Sammy while we were waiting to board our flight. Friday was a pretty big turning point for our little dude. It is not uncommon for a child in Sammy’s situation to attach first to one parent and push the other away for a time. For the first 24 hours we had Sammy, he was okay with going to either of us and letting us both care for him. That changed Tuesday morning and he narrowed in on me. He was only comfortable with me holding him, feeding him, changing his diaper, even looking at him. If I stepped out of sight, he panicked. Jason was such a trooper, consistently reaching out to him, playing with toys from whatever distance he needed to maintain and taking advantage of the moments he was comfortable enough to let him farther in. Friday while we were at the airport, Jason walked away from our gate for a few minutes to look for something. When he started to walk back toward us, Sammy grinned as he saw him and ran to meet him. The two of them even left me for about 10 minutes after that to go for a little walk together. A huge milestone!

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Sammy did AWESOME on the flight! The flight attendant gave me one of those tether straps to hook to my seatbelt so he sat on my lap facing me and I slipped it around him and buckled it and he sat right there the whole 2.5 hours, stacking his cups and sliming me with suckers. The only time he got upset was about 20 minutes before he landed when he finally realized he was wearing a seatbelt! I prepared for panic and screaming but like most things this week, he took it in stride.

We had such a funny moment when we landed in Guangzhou. There was a man walking in front of us to baggage claim and he heard Sammy behind him and turned to look at him and then at us. A minute later he turned back around and said, “Is that your kid?” We said yes and smiled and he looked again at Sammy and us and said kind of surprised, “He looks Chinese!” We all three had a good laugh when I assured him he IS Chinese🙂

We got to our hotel just in time for bed Friday. I noticed when we walked into the lobby that no one even looked at us and Saturday I figured out why. When we got to the hotel restaurant Saturday morning it was full of other adoptive families! Every family who adopts from China has to pass through Guangzhou for a medical examination and a meeting at the U.S. Consulate so there are lots of us here. It has been fun to meet the other families and their kiddos…and to blend in a bit! Guangzhou is beautiful. It’s quite warm and humid here and there are plants and trees everywhere! Jason said if Shanghai is like the New York of China, maybe Guangzhou is the Miami.

Saturday morning was our appointment at the medial clinic. Sammy carried a steamed bun in each hand as we headed out of breakfast and for probably the next hour!

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Thankfully our guide, Becky, knows what is going on. She got us up and out the door early Saturday morning and we were some of the first families at the clinic. By the time we got checked in, the waiting room was full of probably 30 other families! As strange as it sounds to say of a doctor’s office, the joy in that place was palpable. We saw the other two families who received their children with us in Shanghai and met many others. It was just a sweet, sweet thing to see rooms full of little ones and their new families doting all over them.

I was unsure how Samuel would do when we walked in and saw all the white coats. The little guy has seen more than his share of those in his first two years. It makes my heart hurt to think of him facing check ups and shots and surgeries without anyone to cuddle him through it but we are making up for lost time! He had to leave us for a bit to get a blood draw and we were at the ready the instant the nurse opened the door with hugs and marshmallows. He recovered pretty quickly🙂

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Saturday afternoon, we went with the two other families that are here from our agency to Chen Academy.

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Becky was very knowledgeable about the many carvings of stone, wood, bone and ivory in the academy.

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Mom and Sammy listened very attentively. For a moment. Then Sammy and Dad spent the next hour and a half walking up and down stairs and ramps.

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The tall American attracted a crowd.

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After the Academy, we made a stop by the grocery store for supplies. Sammy snagged these two things out of our cart to carry. Coffee and chocolate. That’s my boy!

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After a quick dinner at McDonalds, we met some dear friends who traveled from their city to spend a couple of days with us! It was SO great! More about our visit in the next post. Erica and Michelle, thanks for coming to see us!

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Catching Up

Sorry for the lag in updates. We have much to share! We are in Guangzhou now but I have some catching up to do about the rest of our week in Shanghai.

Where to begin…these days are just so sweet. There is some difficulty, of course, but as I lay on the bed with Samuel this afternoon and watched him sleeping I thought about what a gift these weeks are. I have no other purpose right now than that of connecting with my son and experiencing his culture. Hours (and I do mean HOURS) spent watching him stack and restack his plastic cups and cheering wildly every time he puts them all in order. Holding him on my chest each day while he naps. Long Skype dates with our girls where they watch his tricks and experience him from afar. Snapping pictures of every first and landmark. It is lovely.

Wednesday was orphanage day. It was a tough one, not surprisingly. Early in our journey to Samuel I read somewhere the idea that adoption is always born of pain. It is so true. Though there are moments I feel like my heart could take flight, there are other moments that tether it to this beautiful and broken world. A trip to an orphanage is a sobering reminder that there is a need for such an establishment in the first place.

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We were so very grateful to have had the opportunity to visit. Our hostess was so very gracious. We were able to see Sammy’s room and the other children he shared it with. They were just waking up from nap time when we arrived. I walked between the cribs stroking a few of their hands and wondering who of them had families coming for them. Such beautiful babies. Just like our Sammy. I can’t type the word without my eyes brimming with tears. Each one of them so precious, designed with such purpose, each so deserving to be cherished and loved within a family. I told Jason when left that I wished I would have been more prepared for that part, prepared to linger and touch them and pray instead of nervously shuffling through and wondering if we were staying too long or saying and doing the right things. We also walked past rooms of school age children and passed teenagers in the halls. There are approximately 600 children living there of all different ages.

We saw Samuel’s bed (already occupied by another little one) and the play area and visited with the caretakers that were on duty.

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It was a surreal experience, considering that a mere 72 hours before and every day prior in his first two years, our son was waking up in that room, unbundled from his puffy blanket, dressed in clothes and shoes and shuttled to the playroom for a snack. We were able to take pictures of his caretakers and our guide expressed our thanks to them for the care they had shown him. As we were leaving, one of the nannies handed Sammy a hard-boiled egg. He clutched that little gift and ate every last bite on the way back to the hotel.

My heart was definitely at peace, knowing he was cared for so well. He handled the trip better than I could have possibly hoped. I am so glad to have had that window to his world and to be able to lead him back to that window whenever he needs to gaze inside.

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Thursday was a free day. It was so nice to have a break from being shuttled between appointments and just go at our own pace. We started the day with Sammy’s first bath with us. We were encouraged to follow Sammy’s lead in changing him out of his clothes from the orphanage as they could be a comfort to him when everything around him is so very new. This was definitely the case for our boy so we have taken it very slow. That morning, though, Baba (daddy) opened a carbonated caramel-colored beverage that shall remain nameless and when Sammy got animated about sharing, Jason took the opportunity to earn a little bonding love. It spilled all over Sammy’s pants so a bath was in order. After some hesitance on Sammy’s part and some less than orthodox tactics on ours, he was in the bath and living it up! Happy boy!

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After bath time we walked and celebrated Sammy’s first Starbucks date! No coffee for the little guy but he devoured some kiwi juice.

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Up next was a trip to the shanghai IKEA. I have always wanted to visit one…who would have thought my first time would be in China?! I made Jason swear not to tell our guide! Of COURSE we were soaking up Chinese culture all day long! We just took a wee little detour to behold sleek storage solutions and Swedish meatballs.

Thursday evening we took a taxi to The Bund, a famous river walk in Shanghai.

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 It was very beautiful and there were so many people strolling around. SO many people interested in our family. A gaggle of cute teenage girls surrounded Sammy, snapping his picture and squealing over him. He looked like a deer in the headlights. It’s tough being the most handsome boy in Shanghai! Jason crouched down to comfort him and the paparazzi wasn’t budging so he turned his camera on them!

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A friend asked how I was doing with culture shock since this is my first trip to China (Jason’s fifth, but first to Shanghai). I feel like it has mostly been really smooth. The things that have gotten under my skin are kind of bizarre, like the availability of only two cocktail napkins to keep two adults and a toddler tidy through an entire meal no matter the restaurant and the vehicles that lurch straight at us while I have said toddler strapped to my person. Jason **may** have had to restrain me a bit as the mama bear in me flared up and I shouted at the driver. I tried to convince Jason that was not China vs. American culture that was mother vs. the rest of the world culture! I do tire of the endless stares at the three of us, followed by chatter and folks pointing at their lips as they notice Sammy’s cleft. It was surprising to me, actually, how few looks we got in the days before we had Samuel. Foreigners in Shanghai don’t seem to warrant a second glance. Foreigners with a Chinese baby are another matter. Here is where we are grateful for that “conspicuous families” training🙂

Thanks for following this wild ride with us. More to come soon!

It’s Official

It has been a busy Tuesday in Shanghai! Our little man woke up at 6:00 after sleeping 10 straight hours! Woo hoo! We had breakfast at the hotel and then skyped with the big sisters. Kevin picked us up at 8:30. When we met him in the lobby, he said “I have bad news. Our driver can’t come today. We will have to take a taxi.”

“No problem! An adventure!” Said the gullible Americans.

“Happy April Fools!”

Well played, Kevin🙂

Our first stop was the Marriage & Adoption Registration center to finalize the adoption. We had our first family photo taken here.

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Next we met with a registration officer who asked us a few questions about why we wanted to adopt a child and our plans for his education and medical treatment, then we were taken to a room where we posed for another photo with our adoption certificate. Apparently the getting-a-toddler-out-the-door routine knocked us off our media A game. Our camera battery died right then and we had forgotten the backup. We’ll see if our friend the registration officer emails us a copy. I did, however, snag a photo of Sammy in his fox hat while we waited!

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Next we went to the notarization center for a few more questions, signatures and – naturally – meeting with a notary. The notary quickly discovered that my passport number was wrong on the adoption certificate. I suppose I should have become nervous at that point but I was busy trying to keep Sammy from slamming his cars onto the beautiful glass table. Kevin, the notary, and the worker from the welfare center quickly devised a plan. Another family who was still at their first appointment would bring our corrected form to the notary, we would take the incorrect form back to the registration center tomorrow and pick up the new one Friday when we go back for another document. Whew! Thanks, gang!

From there we headed to lunch and then to Century Mart to buy gifts for the children to take to the orphanage tomorrow. This afternoon included a nap and much block stacking. After not such a kid-friendly lunch experience, we decided to go for easy and walked to KFC. Thanks, Park family, for sharing your carrier! It has been a big help.

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 KFC was a hit with the little man. Here is what we’ve learned about his tastes so far:

Steamed bun, yes.
Noodles, yes.
Rice, yes.
Beef, yes.
Applesauce, yes.
Peaches, yes.
Fruit puffs, as fast as he can shovel them.
Oreos, yes.
Chocolate, faster please.
Chicken, yes.
French fries, mostly good for putting in container and taking back out again. And for dropping on the floor.
Ketchup, not on your life.

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 Please pray for our visit to the orphanage tomorrow. We know it is immeasurably valuable to have the opportunity to see his orphanage and speak with his caretakers but also know it may be rough on Sammy.

Gotcha Day

Sorry for the delay. We had some technical difficulty. We got our Sammy yesterday morning about 10:00. What a day! Our hearts are so full. I will write more soon when I can use two hands. It’s nap time and the little man is sacked out on me🙂

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First Day in Shanghai

In a short 12 hours we will be meeting our Samuel. His bag is packed – bubbles, suckers, books, strawberry puffs, finger puppets – anything to redirect him from the sheer panic that is sure to overtake him as he’s placed in our arms. I have dreamt of the moment that I would stand in a government building and watch as a caregiver carries him through the doorway. My heart leaps every time my mind drifts there. So very soon we will cross over from the anticipating to the doing.

Today was so great and so full! This morning we had an awesome breakfast at the hotel and then met our guide, Kevin. Here he is waiting for us to come through customs at the airport yesterday. He’s great…just our kind of guide. Funny, laid-back and tells us where to find deals.

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Kevin took us to the bank to exchange our money and then to buy a phone. After our errands, we went to the Oriental Pearl Tower.

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We took an elevator up to the sightseeing floor (863 feet) for a view of Shanghai. Next we went to an area with a glass floor. There was a little boy screaming and running away and a father trying to convince him it was okay to walk out on the glass. I felt the same way, little dude, but I feigned bravery for a photo.

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After the Pearl Tower, we headed to Old Shanghai where we had an amazing lunch of dim sum and Shanghai’s famous dumplings. After lunch we visited Yu Garden, which was my favorite stop of the day. Kevin assured us that couples who take a photo together in front of this incredibly rare stone will be together forever.🙂

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From there we headed to the Jade Buddha Temple. Kevin used to be a tour guide so he has been a very informative host. After a quick (or not so quick if you ask Jason) trip to a silk market for some shopping, we headed back to the hotel just long enough to freshen up.

Tonight we met our sweet friend Li Qian and her family for dinner. Hot pot! Li Qian was a student at ESU several years ago. We had such a nice evening together.

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Signing off for now. Tomorrow this crib will have our son in it!!

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We’re Here!

Hello, all! We arrived safe and sound. We checked into our hotel (it is very nice), unpacked a bit and then ventured out to find dinner. Headed to bed now, we’re pooped and have a full day tomorrow!

It’s Go Time!

I’m writing this from the Detroit airport, having completed the first leg of our journey. We leave here in two hours for SHANGHAI! It’s just surreal, the trip we have anticipated for so long is finally unfolding. The girls are in good hands with Grammy and spending the day at Disney on Ice. I have marched about 40 miles around this airport. I hear it’s a good idea to exercise in the clothes you’ll wear for the next 24 hours.😉 People were texting at 4:00 and 5:00 this morning with words of encouragement and prayer. So cool. Grateful for so many joining us on this journey. Away we go! >

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